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Whiskey, Winning, and Whining

It has been far too long since I have written about the Black & Gold. Time has been my enemy with the responsibilities of parenting, a hectic schedule, and a struggling personal economy. Still, my troubles are nothing like the troubles the Steelers have been having. I plan each week to write about the game, but then something happens and I end up drowning my sorrows and my liver in a pool of whiskey. The Steelers faithful and I will moan and complain, cursing individual players from Jeff Reed to Ty Carter to Max Starks. This was not supposed to be how the season should have been playing out.

Inexplicably we are 1-2 in the division and the Bungles, of all teams, are 5-0. With today's loss to Kansas City, all bets are off. This feels like the type of year that the Browns could grab a win and that would be an utter failure on all levels. It boggles the mind. There is no reason this team should not be dominating the division or even the NFL given the schedule this year compared to last year's. It isn't even the fault of one particular player or group of players, special teams blunders notwithstanding.

Ben Roethlisberger has been doing an amazing job. He looked like Ronnie Bass from Remember the Titans, seemingly intangible until the fourth quarter when the weight of four Chiefs defenders finally brought him to the turf. Was it a certain win if Ben had not been hurt? No, but I liked our chances. I still liked them with Batch under center until the quick pitch that ended the game, at least in my heart.

Last week Farrior said that defensive veterans will start playing special teams if they don't start making plays. It was a scolding delivered by the nightly news to the players who allowed another runback for points today. They need to do something drastic. I would even like to see Sepulveda on the kickoffs just because of his tackling ability. Jeff Reed said there was only one missed opportunity for a tackle and that is obviously ridiculous. Although there are 10 other players who need to shoulder the blame.

One player that has long drawn my ire, showed just the kind of hustle that is so sorely lacking on the special teams unit. Had we won the game it would have been in no small part because Mendenhall kept Studebaker from running into the endzone, and that allowed the defense to hold them to only three, sending the game into overtime. Mendenhall is also making an excellent showing this season, allowing us the hope that he will be as good as they thought he would be. It's the hustle of a winner.

Lastly, there is the absence of Troy. It is amazing that one player can make such a difference on the field. When he was first injured my heart was in my throat and I lamented for my favorite player, especially watching his pained expressions during the Bears and first Bengals games. Yet now, I am a little pissed at him. It seems ludicrous to be angry at him for playing without regard to his own well-being, fueled by an even more intense desire to win. However, important as he is to the team, perhaps he needs to tone it down. Or am I just lashing out at the ones I love? Perhaps it's just the whiskey talking.

Who is the best QB of all time?

Who is the best QB of all time?
By Brad Davis

The best quarterback of all time? In America, there’s no greater sports debate. If Baseball is America’s pastime, then football is its present and future. Football is so great it makes everyone forget that they have to go to work on Monday. It’s basically a religion, or at least in my house growing up it was. And nobody in the sport is more important than the starting quarterback. Teams give guys 40 million dollars in guaranteed money before they even take an NFL snap because he has a possibility of being one of the greats. That’s how important having a great one is.

Even my beloved Steelers couldn’t win Bill Cowher or Jerome Bettis a Super Bowl until they got rid of the Neil O’Donnell’s and the Kordell Stewart’s. They had one of the best defenses and running games year in and year out, but not until they landed their franchise quarterback, did they win it all. And they did it twice. I’m not saying Big Ben’s the best. He’s not. It’s too early, his team is too good, and his coaches have been too good. I would love to make the argument for Terry Bradshaw, who is one of two quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls, but it’s the same problem. Bradshaw had the Steel Curtain defense, two Hall of Fame wide-receivers, a Hall of Fame running back, and his regular season statistics were never anything to write home about. He only had two 3,000 yard seasons and twice threw for over 25 touchdowns in a season. He even got booed his first few seasons in Pittsburgh. Bradshaw was clutch, which there’s something to be said for, but not enough to be the best.

After that, there are no more Steelers possibilities. I’ll wait for the Tommy Maddox chant to die down. Okay. So I move on to my Alma Mater, The University of Pittsburgh and the great Dan Marino: The man who never had anybody. No running game, no great defenses, and a couple of good receivers, but not nearly enough. I’d love to give it to the Pittsburgh boy, but he never won a Super Bowl. How can you be the best when you’ve never achieved the best? So I go down the list of other Pittsburgh boys. Jim Kelly? 4 Super Bowl APPEARANCES, no victories. Joe Namath predicted one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history and then delivered on it. His drunken attempt to make out with Suzy Kolber was classic, and I can’t blame him for the effort. I can blame him for throwing more interceptions than touchdowns in his career. Sorry Broadway Joe.

Sticking in the Burgh, we got our first legitimate candidate in Johnny Unitas. He revolutionized the quarterback position. He was the first to ever throw for over 40,000 yards and they only played 12 or 14 game seasons, as opposed to 16 today. It’s hard to do a perfect comparison because of that same reason. He won three championships, two before the game was even called the Super Bowl. And he holds the record to this day for most consecutive game with a touchdown pass at 47. Yes, 47. There’s no denying he belongs in this discussion, it’s just hard to determine exactly where. Near the top for sure.

If we want to stay a little more contemporary, we can move to John Elway. Before Big Ben’s drive this past Super Bowl, Elway was known for having the best one. His career numbers definitely qualify and he won the Super Bowl twice. But both times was when he had Terrell Davis in his prime, which was exactly those two years. Davis rushed for 1,700 yards and over 2,000 yards in those two seasons. That’s pretty significant considering Elway couldn’t win it without it. If we are in the Marino/Elway Era, we might as well talk about Brett Favre, because that’s all anyone else does. As a huge Favre fan, let me preface this by saying his bit the last few years has tainted my love for him to a certain extent. I will say he’s doing great things in Minnesota this year and if he continues to play at this level, this could change the entire discussion, especially if he gets another ring. There’s no denying all of the passing records including most passing yards and touchdown passes ever, and his consecutive games started streak speaks for itself. However, he also holds the record for the most interceptions ever thrown. Only one Super Bowl and his, let’s call it erratic, behavior off and sometimes on the field, keeps him off the top for now, but not by much.

The case for Favre could change if Peyton Manning ends up breaking all of those records, which he could. Everyone thought he’d me a modern day Marino, until he won the big one. He already has 3 League MVP’s, tied for most all time with Unitas, but only one Super Bowl. Peyton may get in the discussion if he wins one or two more, but isn’t quite in the mix, yet. To be honest, and as much as it pains me to say this, Tom Brady is. I’ve watched Brady torch the Steelers over the years, almost single handedly. He had the record-breaking season two years ago, with the help of Randy Moss, but no Super Bowl. He did win three before that with an unknown supporting cast. Yes, they had a good defense, but not the best. Many people want to credit Bill Belichick as being a genius and the big reason behind their success, but coaches can only call the plays, not make the throws. Before Brady, Belichick coached six full seasons and only had a winning season once. If Brady wins a fourth super bowl, this discussion could be over.

If he does win the fourth that would probably leap him over the guy whose number one right now, Joe Montana. I’m not saying that’s definitely the correct answer, but he’s the one you can make the easiest case for. He’s the only other quarterback to win four Super Bowls, along with Bradshaw. He had Jerry Rice, arguably the best receiver ever, but nothing compared to the support cast Bradshaw had. He was consistent and never made mistakes. And “The Throw” is an iconic play that is about as clutch as it gets. Montana’s got the complete resume and he’s ANOTHER Pittsburgh guy. I got to admit, I kind of love it.

In this debate, the biggest factor is Super Bowl victories. Career numbers are key, as well, but you have to look at the ones who were champions the most. That’s what it’s all about. Ask any player. They’ll tell you MVP’s and even the Hall of Fame are great, but both take a back seat to winning it all and holding that Lombardi Trophy above your head. I’m sure Marino would agree.

How Much Longer Can Big Ben Stand?

It's a strange question to ask. Since Ben Roethlisberger took over as the starting quarterback from Tommy Maddox in 2004, the Steelers have averaged 11 regular season wins per year, and have won 2 Super-Bowl titles. This season they are two uncharacteristically sloppy 4th quarters away from a perfect 7-0 start heading into their bye week. At age 27 and just entering what should be his prime, Roethlisberger already has a career QB rating of 90.9 (8th all time). This season he is 2nd in passing yards (2062), 2nd in completion percentage (70.4), and 5th in QB ratings (102.6). No reason for Steelers fans to think that Ben can't last for at least another 8-10 years right? Right?

But perhaps the most fascinating number to statistically associated with Ben Roethlisberger is 212, for that is the number of times over the course of his career that he has been sacked. A staggering number, made all the more alarming when you consider that in the last 3.5 seasons alone that number is 159. To put this in better perspective consider the sack totals of Steve Young from 1991 to 1999 as the starter for the 49ers, and compare them with Roethlisberger's career to date.

Steve Young2541152.21

For those of you who remember, Young suffered from post-concussion syndrome and was forced to retire. Some say that Young brought this upon himself with his penchant for scrambling outside of the pocket. Others choose to blame an offensive line that was practically beat before Young could finish saying “hike”. Extrapolate the above table over the course of a 16 game season and you have nearly an 8 sack difference between the two. The numbers becomes even more pronounced when you remember that Young played in an offense (West Coast) which emphasized the passing game much more than the Steelers traditional run based offense. Consider also that in the above time-frame, Young attempted 3324 passes, divide that by the aforementioned sack totals and you have a ratio of 1 sack for every 13.1 passes attempted. Roethlisberger by comparison has attempted 2138 passes in his career for an average of 1 sack for every 10.1 passes. In the brutal AFC North those extra hits take on extra levels of hurt when delivered by the likes of Ray Lewis or Terrell Suggs.

Though at 6’5”and roughly 250 pounds maybe it doesn’t matter how much Big Ben gets hit. Maybe 8 years from now he’ll still be leading the Steelers to the playoffs, and possibly to more Super Bowls. Still all the while knocking heads with the meanest, ugliest Linebackers and Defensive Ends the league has to offer. But maybe, just maybe, Steelers fans should prepare for the possibility of an end that will come sooner than expected.

Domination is Only Interesting to Some People.

There is a conspiracy afoot. Let me preface this by saying that I have no faith in any type of conspiracy theory. CIA kills Kennedy, White House brings down the Towers, and America is the land of the free. All nonsense from people too dumb or scared to actually think and reason and figure out why that despite all evidence to the contrary things are screwed. Until now.

Picture this: Reigning Super-Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers play a team with a completely fabricated rivalry, the San Diego Chargers, due to Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers, alumnus of the same draft class. However, with the remarkable arrival of a professional-caliber Rashard Mendenhall and an amazing performance by the offensive life, by halftime the game was practically over. The Steelers had their number and this is when all the weirdness begins.

The Steelers had possession of the ball for two-thirds of the first half. Troy Polamalu sat on the sidelines the entire game, but his absence was only lamented after this first half; the defense had allowed only five first downs and no points up to the first half of the third quarter. Then all hell broke loose. Coming up with plays seemingly designed by drunken pirates, the sea-faring variety and not the ne'er-do-well Pittsburgh team, San Diego marched up the field and had the entirety of Steelers nation on the edges of their seats and abusing whatever it was they chose to abuse during the game, food, drink, or drug.

How could this happen? We have Dick Freakin' LeBeau and James Damn Harrison and all of the other defensive juggernauts that until they began to accept not giving up a big play over the desire to make one had owned the field. This would be concerning. One of the reasons the Steelers are never looked at with the proper awe and respect of the Patriots manned by Brady or any of the Mannings' teams, is because of our inability to dominate a game and walk away winning a contest 50-2.

I imagine that it went something like this:


STEELERS ORGANIZATION CHUMP: We are killing them! Collingsworth said we were kicking their stinking butts! And he hates us!

NBC GREEDHEAD: Right. About that. See our numbers dipped during some commercials and halftime there.

STEELERS CHUMP: Oh yeah. People were probably checking out those slutty housewives or something, I always said we should have cheerleaders.

NBC GREEDHEAD: Yeah. See, we're gonna need to make this game more interesting. How about two special teams boners and one uncontested rush up the field. Oh and if Ben could make that "how is this happening to me?" face we'd love that. It tests well.

STEELERS CHUMP: Uhh…I mean…C'mon, really? You said that having Reed throw the Bears game was the LAST time. I mean we both had money on the Bengals, but this is just getting out of hand.

NBC GREEDHEAD: Do what you have to do. Or Coach Tomlin might get a lucrative offer for his own variety sports show before the new Jay Leno show.

STEELERS CHUMP: You wouldn't!

NBC GREEDHEAD: I have the theme song ready to be released as a ringtone. DARE ME TO!

Or something like that. It has to be a conspiracy of some sort to generate high viewership for these big national stage games. The Steelers love to put on a good show and who in Pittsburgh isn't willing to "play a little ball?" It would be much more disturbing if despite all of our achievements in the realm of defense we are simply programmed to fall apart in the fourth quarter. It's why Troy is special, not because of his superhuman ability to be wherever the ball is heading, but because he plays every down as if the Superbowl is on the line. Something foul is afoot in the depths of the Steelers locker room and I will be assuredly investigating this further.

My relentless pursuit of this conspiracy has everything to do with a commitment to good journalism and has nothing to do with the fact that I am eating some crow about Mendenhall right now. He had a very impressive showing and if he continues to perform that way with the high level of blocking provided by the O-Line, he may just become the Bettis replacement we have been looking for as a club and as a fanbase. I worry most about Willie Parker who, if Mendenhall does become the back to do it all, may be facing that long walk to the glue factory, forgotten as the undrafted record-breaker and person who helped us let Jerome go.

Steelers Mix blog featured writers Rob Carter, John V, Jessica, Joshua Patton,Kenneth Torgent
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